HBO may have been king at this year’s Emmys but their awards dominance doesn’t stop there. The network is looking to continue their hold on the Best Documentary Short category at the Oscars. The company has produced several previous winners in this category including “One Survivor Remembers” (1995), “King Gimp” (1999), “Smile Pinki” (2008) and last year’s winner, “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1.” This year, the paycaster has produced three of the five nominees including the frontrunner “Body Team 12.”
Below, let’s take a closer look at that film and the other four nominees.
“Body Team 12”
During the 2014 outbreak of Ebola in Liberia, Garmai Sumo is the only female member of a body disposal team that is tasked with collecting the corpses of those who have succumbed to the disease. The film shows how she remains devoted to her work despite facing horrible situations and constant distrust.
David Darg and Bryn Mooser are up for their first Oscar nomination.
Pros: The film highlights something recent and fresh in most people’s minds and shows very raw emotional moments of the epidemic.
Cons: At only 12 minutes, the film feels very abrupt and that there was a more complete story to tell. Then again, with voters not being required to watch all the films, that might not matter that much.
Votes: 15 of our 26 Experts drawn from journalists who cover this beat year-round as well as three of our seven in-house Editors, 17 of the Top 24 Users (those two dozen folks who did the best predicting last year’s winners) and 80% of all Users.
“Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah”
Filmmaker and journalist Claude Lanzmann reflects on the ten year journey it took to make his landmark 10-hour Holocaust documentary, “Shoah.”
This marks Adam Benzine‘s first Oscar nomination.
Pros: This is a documentary that combines the Holocaust and filmmaking. What more could Academy members want? But in all seriousness, Holocaust documentaries are always a serious threat in this category. Also, hearing of how the project was made is almost just as compelling as watching it.
Cons: One might feel unsure of how to feel about the ending with Lanzmann talking about his pessimistic world view while photos of him being happy are displayed.
Votes: 5 Experts, 2 Editors, 3 of the Top 24 Users and 10% of all Users.
“A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness”
An 18-year-old Pakistani woman, Saba, falls in love and marries someone her family doesn’t approve of. When her family finds out, Saba’s father and uncle abduct her, beat her, shoot her in the face and throw her in a river. Saba survives and must decide whether to pursue legal action or forgive them in a Pakistani court and allow them to go free.
This is the second nomination for Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy who won this category in 2011 for “Saving Face,” which also explored the subject of honor crimes.
Pros: The subject matter is very timely and if the voters are actually watching the shorts, this one will elicit the strongest reactions.
Cons: While the end of the film tries to be optimistic, it is really devastating and leaves you with more of a feeling of hopelessness for the Islamic world.
Votes: 5 Experts, 1 Editor and 5% of all Users.
“Chau, Beyond the Lines”
The film follows Chau, an adolescent Vietnamese boy, who was born with severe physical defects because of Agent Orange. Chau dreams of becoming an artist and fashion designer despite the limitations posed by his disabilities.
This is the first nomination for Courtney Marsh and Jerry Franck.
Pros: The film centers on the theme of children overcoming adversity like previous winners “Smile Pinki” (2008) and “Music by Prudence” (2009). It’s very easy to get invested in Chau’s story and the film is the most optimistic of this bunch by a mile.
Cons: It can be a very tough subject to watch and if voters aren’t watching their screeners, they won’t be feel the emotional weight of the material.
Votes: 1 Expert, 1 Editor and 3% of all Users.
“Last Day of Freedom”
Through animation, the film tells the story of Bill Babbitt and how he came to realize that his brother, Manny, had committed a horrible crime after suffering severe PTSD from his service in Vietnam.
Dee Hibbert-Jones and Nomi Talisman celebrate their first Oscar nomination with this film.
Pros: The film is emotionally devastating and is presented with a compelling narration and an original storytelling format.
Cons: The animation can feel like it exaggerates the emotion of the story a little too much.
Votes: 1 Top 24 User and 2% of all Users.
What do you think will win Best Documentary Short at the Oscars? Make your predictions using the menu to the right or below.
Photo: “Body Team 12” (HBO)